A Saudi private consortium led by Saudi Media registered their interest yesterday to buy Chelsea from Roman Abramovich through Raine Group, a New York merchant bank that has been hired to find a buyer.
Sources with knowledge of the situation described at least 10 serious buyers, with many others holding an interest.
The sheer number of interested parties, which includes Todd Boehly and Hansjorg Wyss’s US-Swiss consortium and Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak, gives Abramovich some hope in claiming his highly ambitious £3 billion ($4bn) valuation.
Although it is not known who the individual backers are at this stage, Saudi Media are a fund that is heavily involved in funding media, advertising and sports brands across the world.
However, their main content offering is for the pan-Arab broadcasting market. The company has offices in both Dubai, UAE and Saudi Arabia itself.
One barrier to their success in claiming Chelsea might be the caution around accepting any bids from a ‘politically sensitive’ party.
The aim is for the Russian oligarch to accept a bid by 15 March but the billionaire is open to extending it, should he decide it will help the process.
The proceeds of the sale, we are told, will go to the ‘victims of the ongoing war in Ukraine’.
That careful wording in Abramovich’s statement on Wednesday last week leaves open the concerns that funds could go to both sides of the war which was sparked by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Also within that statement, it was revealed that Abramovich would write off the £1.5bn ($2bn) that he is owed by Chelsea in the form of a loan through his holding company Fordstam Ltd.
That means that the £1.5bn won’t be banked by Abramovich after he completes a sale.
The Blues’ travelling support was criticised by their own manager Thomas Tuchel for chanting Abramovich’s name during the Premier League-organised tribute for Ukraine ahead of their weekend win over Burnley.
Those misguided actions go to show the pain among the hardcore support of losing an owner who has funded 21 trophies in 19 years of his ownership.
Any new owner is highly unlikely to offer the same level of investment in the Blues, which will likely be on a more stable footing.
However, it is also an opportunity to start a new more transparent era at the club and the Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST), the most influential supporters group, has issued a list of requests to any new owners.
They want the outstanding balance of the Chelsea Pitch Owners’ (CPO) loan to be repaid, which stands at around £8m, to be waived.
Alongside that, they are asking for more fan involvement in the club, support for the Chelsea Women’s team and the following of the recommendations from Tracey Crouch’s government report on football governance.
Although not stated in their manifesto for a new owner, the need to rebuild Stamford Bridge is a major additional issue.
Although the club has many attractive aspects, including their TV deals and the quality of the playing squad, the need to redevelop Stamford Bridge could cost more than £2bn after buying the west Londoners.